• This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • Earth.Org Newsletters

    Get focused newsletters especially designed to be concise and easy to digest

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
SHOP Support

As the world’s climate changes, the rate of ocean warming is accelerating at an unprecedented rate, sea levels are rising and many ocean species are dying out. However, one species that is not feeling the heat, but is, in fact, thriving in warm waters spurred on by the climate crisis, is the jellyfish. On World Jellyfish Day, which every year falls on November 3, here are some fascinating facts about this fascinating species.

Global climate change has been causing sustained warming of the oceans since 1970. It has likely been happening at an increasingly rapid rate since 1993, and with no reduction in intensity, according to the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). Despite this, the jellyfish is thriving in the fertiliser-rich, deoxygenated warm ocean waters. 

Jellyfish Facts

Putting a number on jellyfish populations is difficult due to a lack of quantitative records. However, a study showed that jellyfish populations have increased in at least 68 ecosystems around the world since 1950 and “are one of the few groups of organisms that may benefit from the continued anthropogenic impacts on the world’s biosphere.” 

Jellyfish populations fluctuate in blooming cycles naturally. However, the recent growth  is correlated with man-made changes to the environment. Blooms of the giant jellyfish (Nemopilema nomurai), which have historically happened in Japan once every 40 or so years, have become a yearly occurrence since the early 2000s. The animals cause many problems, such as clogging fishing nets, affecting tourism in places that rely heavily on its oceans, stinging people, killing fish by lodging within gills and clogging cooling screens in power plants, amongst others. In June 2018, over 1,000 people were stung by jellyfish in a single week in Florida. 

You might also like: The Destructive Truth Behind Aquariums

Jellyfish are also particularly dangerous near nuclear coastal power plants. To prevent a disaster whereby a swarm of jellies block an underwater cooling system, costly shut-downs, such as in Torness (UK, 2011), or Oskarshamn (Sweden, 2013) are necessary. 

The gelatinous animals owe their explosion in numbers to a variety of factors, as outlined in a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists and below.

Jellyfish Thriving in Warm Waters

The warm waters are forcing tropical coral reefs to seek more temperate regions, a migration that has been happening at a rate of 8.7 miles per year since the 1930s. Migrating coral makes way for other marine species – including jellyfish – to extend their habitable territory. This throws the local ecosystems off-balance as jellyfish join the competition for zooplankton, as well as hinder the lives of fish by eating their eggs, larvae and juveniles, according to the Earth Institute of the University of Colombia. Increases in populations of non-indigenous species are possibly the most damaging of all.  

Additionally, oceans are dumping grounds for carbon, which further aid jellyfish. IPCC models show that as the concentration of atmospheric CO2 since the beginning of the century has increased, so has the oceanic absorption that has led to warm waters for jellyfish. It is estimated that within this time frame, oceans have absorbed 20-30% of total man-made emissions globally.

The rise of CO2 in the atmosphere means that more CO2 gets absorbed into seawater. This carbon reacts with water molecules to form carbonic acid, which then breaks down into hydrogen and bicarbonate. The presence of all these hydrogen ions this reaction creates causes the water to become more acidic. Gases dissolve more readily in cooler waters and so acidification is more pronounced in the Arctic and Southern oceans. This acidity inhibits coral growth and causes reefs to die off in a process called ‘coral bleaching,’ allowing jellyfish to roam and multiply freely.

Anthropogenic influences significantly impact jellyfish populations. Fertiliser and effluent sewage from land cause oversaturation of water with nutrients, particularly around coastal estuaries – a process known as eutrophication – enabling excessive algal growth. Decaying algae depletes water of oxygen. Jellyfish are able to tolerate low concentrations of oxygen and with plentiful food, they continue to multiply, while other fish suffocate and die. Additionally, coastal development, the building of docks, boats anchored in harbours and underwater infrastructure provide perfect surfaces for breeding jellyfish to attach to in their polyp stage.

Finally, the overfishing of species which prey on jellyfish, such as tuna and sea turtles, means that jellyfish are able to breed undeterred by predators. According to Dr Callum Roberts, a marine biologist and author of the seminal book “The Ocean of Life,” humans take 50% more fish than thought – “a staggering total of about 130 million tonnes a year.” He explains that the issue of fishery mismanagement and the release of misleading statistics can lead us to circumstances ‘beyond our capacity to cope.’ 

Another aspect spurring on the jellyfish’s population growth is the fact that at least five known species are effectively immortal. 

The phenomenon was first observed in Turritopsis dohrnii, the ‘immortal jellyfish.’ Not unlike the mythical phoenix, from the dead body of a jellyfish springs a new one into life. 

Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin, director of the Marine Stinger Advisory Service in Tasmania and jellyfish researcher, explains on a BBC Earth podcast episode

“When Turritopsis dies its body begins to decay, as it would, but then the cells reaggregate into polyps – it skips to the alternate part of its life cycle, the earlier life stage. These little polyps keep cloning and they can cover an entire dock in a matter of few days! Some types can form whole ‘shrubs’ and when the conditions are right they bloom in vast numbers like flowers and ‘bud off’ baby jellyfish.”

The more common moon jelly has also been shown to defy death. Observing the same ability in both is a surprising, complex and hopeful discovery. 

With the rapid expansion of these populations, scientists and policymakers are brainstorming ways of making the animals useful. The GoJelly project proposes employing the creatures’ ability to use their mucus to bind microplastic. The researchers intend to develop a microplastics filter to be used in wastewater treatment plans and in factories where microplastic is produced, which could help prevent much of these particles from getting into marine ecosystems and harming wildlife further.  

You might also like: 11 of the Most Endangered Species in the Ocean in 2022

Since the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuel technologies have been driving economic growth, so reducing emissions may appear to threaten developing countries’ progress, but to meet the Paris target, this is exactly what needs to happen. Is there a way for developing countries to prosper without increasing their emissions? 

How Do Developing Countries Contribute to Climate Change?

A study from the World Resources Institute in 2017 reveals that the world’s top three emitters of greenhouse gases, namely China, the European Union and the US, contribute more than half of the total global emissions while six of the top 10 emitters are developing countries. 

The World Economic Forum recognises that carbon emissions and developing countries being lifted out of extreme poverty are linked. An increase in carbon emissions observed over 30 years shows that poverty has been reduced within East Asia and Pacific and South Asia, while sub-Saharan Africa has, during the same time period, reduced their emissions and almost doubled the number of people living in poverty.

You might also like: Germany to Phase Out Coal by 2038- A Done Deal?

Moreover, The Paris Agreement acknowledges that the efforts toward reducing carbon emissions will be common but not equal among developed and developing countries. The fairness of these contributions will be determined by national circumstances so that there will be equity in the responses and responsibilities to address climate change. This means that developing countries will be allowed to emit more carbon until they have developed enough that they no longer need to rely on carbon-intensive industries. 

However, data compiled by the World Resources Institute shows that since 2000, 21 developing countries have reduced annual emissions while simultaneously growing their economies, indicating that the decoupling of economic growth with emissions is possible.

Similarly, The Low Carbon Index found that several G20 countries have reduced their economies’ carbon intensity while maintaining GDP growth, including countries classified as ‘developing’, such as China, India, South Africa and Mexico. 

While global carbon emissions have nevertheless been rising exponentially over the past decade, the International Energy Agency reported three years of flat emissions globally, from 2014 to 2016, as the global economy grew. A study conducted in 2017 investigated whether renewable energy has anything to do with this decoupling. The findings indicated that the nations that generated more electricity from renewable resources had lower carbon emissions overall, illustrating that renewable energy is able to support economic growth while reducing emissions. 

Clean Economic Growth for Sustainable Development

According to the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century’s (REN21) yearly overview of the global state of renewable energy, it made up 24.5% of global electricity generation in 2016. This went up to 26.5% in 2017, but by the end of 2018, it had gone down to 26.2%. While the adoption of renewable energy is steadily increasing, it is not enough to have a significant impact in the long term and needs to be adopted on a much larger scale. 

According to an International Energy Agency report, Africa has the richest solar resources but has installed only 5 GW of solar photovoltaics (PV), less than 1% of global capacity. Aiming to provide electricity for everyone on the continent would require a significant increase in electricity generation, with only 43% of Africans currently having a reliable power supply. According to the report, electricity demand on the continent will more than double by 2040.

The report indicates that with the right policies, Africa can meet the demand by relying on renewable energy, with solar energy having the potential to be its top renewable energy source, exceeding hydropower. That renewable energy is now the cheapest source of energy generation makes this all the more possible. “A focus on energy efficiency can support economic growth while curbing the increase in energy demand,” the report says. 

Africa’s endeavour to meet its energy needs in a renewable way while providing its inhabitants with a good quality of life should serve as inspiration for other developing nations.

There is evidently a huge opportunity for developing countries to generate energy sustainably. Renewable energy sources deliver economic benefits without the risks of fossil fuels; such benefits include creating more job opportunities in the energy sector and achieving energy independence.

Developing Countries Cannot Afford Renewable Energy

However, there are significant barriers that prevent developing countries from adopting renewable energy plans. Decarbonisation is often not a priority for less developed countries compared to economic growth and poverty alleviation. Many of these countries struggle with gaps in technical and financial expertise, a lack of resources and poor governance. 

Creating lowest-emission or renewable energy strategies shaped to each country’s unique circumstances is vital to maintaining and encouraging growth while reducing emissions. 

Developing countries need to implement policies that shift the economy away from carbon-intensive industries. These should be coordinated at a global level to ensure a worldwide shift towards an equitable and environmentally responsible future. 

Countries are falling behind in their commitments to meet the Paris Agreement targets, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who calls the situation “bleak” in its new report. The UNEP warns we are on the ‘brink of missing the opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5°C’. Will countries take on the ambitious commitments needed to meet their targets? 

In 2015, 197 nations signed an historic agreement, making pledges to lower emissions and limit rising global temperatures. One year before countries are set to strengthen their Paris Agreement pledges, the UNEP says current commitments are not enough. In its latest Global Emissions Gap report, the UN’s environmental body warns that unless countries cut global emissions by 7.6% every year for the next ten years, the world will not be able to meet the Paris target of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 °C by 2100. This means that countries must level-up their pledges with cuts needing to increase at least fivefold to reach the 1.5°C goal.

Since 2010, the UNEP has published an annual Emission Gap report which explores the progress countries are making at closing the emissions gap. This gap- also known as the ‘commitment gap’, is the difference between how much countries are currently emitting and how many emissions would have to be cut in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of the century. Through exploring a number of scenarios based on current climate policies and pledges, the report projects outcomes of where we can expect to see global emissions in a decade’s time. 

This year, the report paints a dire picture for the future. In all scenarios explored, all of them are not enough to limit emissions to acceptable levels. In fact, the report states that even if all Paris Agreement pledges – or nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – are implemented, temperatures are expected to rise 3.2 °C by the end of the century, falling far short of the targeted 1.5 °C limit. 

Current emissions commitments not enough to meet Paris targets - UN
Global greenhouse gas emissions under different scenarios and the emissions gap in 2030 (Source: UNEP).

This shocking scenario has resulted in strong calls from the UNEP’s Executive Director, Inger Anderson, for nations to take immediate action in cutting down their GHG emissions. “Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions,” she says.

She adds, “Countries simply cannot wait until the end of 2020, when new climate commitments are due, to step up action. They– and every city, region, business and individual – need to act now.”

The report says emissions must drop rapidly to 25 gigatonnes by 2030 if we are to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C; under today’s commitments, emissions are on track to reach 56 gigatonnes- more than double what the report’s scientists are recommending.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres warns, “Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heatwaves, storms and pollution.”

The report also found that in the past ten years, GHG emissions have risen by 1.5% year-on-year. 2018 in particular saw land-use changes such as deforestation hitting a new high of 55.3 gigatonnes. Currently G20 members account for 78% of global GHG emissions, however only five members (the EU, Japan, the UK, the US and Canada) are committing to a long-term zero emissions targets. The report stresses that ‘enhanced action by the G20 members will be critical for the global mitigation effort’.

Current emissions commitments not enough to meet Paris targets - UN
Top greenhouse gas emitters, excluding land-use change emissions due to lack of reliable country-level data, on an absolute basis (left) and per capita basis (right) (Source: UNEP).

Although the report paints a daunting picture, the environmental programme says global warming can still be limited to 1.5°C. As more solutions become more readily available in energy transition, the report stresses the need for fundamental structural changes to achieve ‘full decarbonisation’ of the global economy.

Public pressure around the world is increasing on governments and private sectors around the world for more action. The UNEP is hopeful that this will trigger meaningful steps in fighting the climate crisis, a sentiment shared by Niklas Höhne, founding partner of NewClimate Institute, a climate policy NGO, who says, “The transformation is starting small but is expanding fast. We find that in all areas, some actors are taking truly ambitious actions.” says Höhne,  “Zero emission targets and targets of 100% renewables are spreading fast, and commitments for zero emissions in heavy industry were unthinkable only a few years ago,” he adds. 

2020 will be a critical year for climate action. As nations prepare for the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow, one has to wonder whether governments are up to the task of making the ambitious commitments needed to meet the 1.5°C limit, or will they again falter as they did in the disastrous COP25.   

Featured image by: World Trade Organization

COVID-19 has spread rapidly from China to the rest of the world. Thousands of lives have been lost and the pandemic has all but crashed the global stock market. China closed its factories, transportation systems and locked down major cities to slow the spread of the virus, and the country’s GDP is expected to drop a few percentage points this year. It may be tough to be optimistic, but an unexpected benefit of COVID-19 is the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Satellite images from NASA have shown that a drop in industrial and economic activities has resulted in reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality in Wuhan, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, over the Chinese New Year. Levels also dropped in Beijing and Hebei province, as well as Shanghai and the Yangtze River Delta region. 

The images show that pollution dropped, and didn’t rebound after the holiday. The level of PM2.5, dangerous small pollution particles, fell by 25%, while nitrogen dioxide, produced mainly by diesel vehicles, dropped by 40%. Nitrogen dioxide produces ozone, which, on the ground, is detrimental to human health, causing asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory and pulmonary illnesses. 

COVID-19 Reveals Unexpected Benefit- Reduced Emissions
Satellite images showing nitrogen dioxide emissions from January 1 2019 to February 25 2020 (Source: NASA).

PM2.5 is responsible for more than one million premature deaths in China annually and for the reduction of crop yields.

In February, during the peak of the outbreak in China, the nation’s carbon emissions dropped by about 100 million tonnes, accounting for more than 25% of carbon dioxide emissions since the outbreak began compared to the same period in 2019, roughly 6% of global carbon dioxide emissions. 

Similar drops in emissions were seen during the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing, when the government implemented measures to decrease air pollution. Measures included replacing high-emitting vehicles with increased public transportation options, shutting down some chemical plants in Beijing, raising the price of gasoline to discourage the use of cars and requiring power and chemical plants to decrease emissions by 30%. These measures caused a sudden and sharp decrease in air pollution levels in Beijing and nearby cities. The particulate matter in the air in the city decreased by an average of 18% during 2008. 


Italy has seen the greatest number of combined cases of COVID-19 of any country outside China. Public spaces have since been closed throughout the country. As people have stayed home, nitrogen emissions in Italy, particularly in the northern regions, have fallen. The European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite tracks air pollution in the atmosphere, and the satellite has seen a sharp decrease in emissions of nitrogen dioxide over Italy since the beginning of the year. 

“Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see coincides with the lockdown in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities,” Claus Zehner, the mission’s manager at ESA, said in a statement. 

COVID-19 Reveals Unexpected Benefit- Reduced Emissions
Images showing the decrease in nitrogen dioxide emissions over Italy from January 31 to March 8 2020 (Source: Copernicus Sentinel data processed by the ESA).

There have also been sightings of swans and fish in the port and canals of Venice due to the lack of gondolas, cruise ships and noise pollution in the city. 

The UK

While behind Italy in terms of the spread of the disease, roadside monitors in the UK are already showing significant reductions in levels of pollution. Road traffic accounts for about 80% of nitrogen oxide emissions in the UK and for the average diesel car, each km not driven prevents 52 mg of the substance entering the atmosphere. 

COVID-19 Reveals Unexpected Benefit- Reduced Emissions
Satellite data showing a reduction in the presence of nitrogen oxide over Europe (Source: Copernicus Sentinel data processed by the ESA).

Air Pollution Likely to Increase Coronavirus Death Rate

Experts have said that the health damage inflicted on people by long-standing air pollution from greenhouse gas emissions in cities is likely to increase the death rate from COVID-19 infections. 

Dirty air can cause lung and heart damage, and is responsible for at least 8 million early deaths a year. This means that respiratory infections, such as COVID-19, may have a more serious impact on those in cities and exposed to toxic fumes than others. 

Strict confinement measures in China and Italy have led to falls in air pollution. A preliminary calculation by a US expert suggests that tens of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution may have been avoided by the cleaner air in China. 

“Patients with chronic lung and heart conditions caused or worsened by long-term exposure to air pollution are less able to fight off lung infections and more likely to die. This is likely also the case for Covid-19,” said Sara De Matteis, at Cagliari University, Italy, and a member of the environmental health committee of the European Respiratory Society. “By lowering air pollution levels we can help the most vulnerable in their fight against this and any possible future pandemics.”

Scientists who analysed the SARS coronavirus outbreak in China in 2003 found that infected people who lived in areas with more air pollution were twice as likely to die as those in less polluted places. 

According to the Global Exposure Mortality Model (GEMM) developed by Bernett et al., (2018) scientists are now able to estimate the number of premature deaths from air pollution, as well as the number of premature deaths prevented because of reduced pollution levels.  

COVID-19 Reveals Unexpected Benefit- Reduced Emissions
GEMM describes the magnitude of the association between PM2.5 exposure and the probability of death in a concentration-response relationship known as the Hazard Ratio (Source: Bernett et. al, 2018).

It is estimated that the 3 weeks of reduced emissions in China during the COVID-19 outbreak may have saved 77 000 lives in the nation, mainly in the industrial region where the exposure to PM2.5 would have been highest. The actual number of lives saved may be a lot higher because people are staying at home more, which reduces their exposure to air pollutants significantly. However, it is important to note that this is difficult to quantify as it is purely statistical and associated illnesses from air pollution have long-term effects. The number of traffic accidents have also dropped. Even without the reduced emissions, the policy that made the wearing of masks in public spaces compulsory has also helped reduce exposure to pollutants; the masks also help to prevent the spread of the common cold and flu as shown by research in Hong Kong.

The experts are quick to clarify, however, that these claims are not to say that the pandemic can be seen as good for health. 

The aggressive measures taken by China and Italy to contain the COVID-19 outbreak that have resulted in reduced emissions show that it is possible to reduce emissions on a mass scale. However, the outbreak has also caused a large drop in fossil fuel demand, lowering the oil price, which may hinder the development of renewable energy. 

Scientists from the Tomsk Polytechnic University in Russia recently recorded the highest-ever flares of methane emissions- up to nine times the average global atmospheric concentration- in the air over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS).  

The average surface temperature of the earth has increased by about 0.9°C since the late 19th century, driven in part by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane. 

Why does methane trap more heat than carbon dioxide?

Although methane accounts for less than a quarter (16%) of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of absorbing heat and contributes 25% of man-made global warming as of 2013.

Permafrost systems are carbon-rich soils that remain completely frozen for at least two years straight. 17% of the Earth’s exposed land surface is underlain by permafrost. The thermal state of these systems is sensitive to changing climatic conditions and in particular to rising air temperatures. Studies have found that the Arctic permafrost will thaw due to rising temperatures and once thawed, soil microbes convert the organic carbon in the permafrost soil into greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. This process could amplify global climate change. 

In October, scientists from the Tomsk Polytechnic University in Russia recorded the highest-ever amounts of methane in the air over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) during a 40-day research voyage led by chief scientist Igor Semiletov. 

The methane emissions they observed were up to nine times greater than the average global atmospheric concentration. “Nobody has detected these concentrations,” Semiletov said.

The scientists surveyed 60 sites across the ESAS known to have had methane emissions from underwater permafrost in the past. Each emission site varies in size, ranging from 100 square metres to a square kilometre. The water at these sites looks as though it’s boiling as methane bubbles to the surface. Researchers collected samples of the air above the bubbling columns of methane to determine the amount being released into the Arctic Ocean. 

During previous expeditions, the team had recorded methane concentrations of 3-5 parts per million at these sites. On this trip however, they recorded methane concentrations of up to 16 parts per million, well above the average global atmospheric concentration of 1.7 parts per million. 

“The methane emissions, which look like torches or flares, are all increasing,” Semiletov said.

Their discovery does not come as a surprise. In 2010, Professor Semiletov and his colleague Natalia Shakhova made waves with their paper, which showed that methane trapped beneath the underwater permafrost of the ESAS was leaking into the Arctic Ocean. 

Specifically, they found that in this area, more than 80% and 50% of bottom and surface waters respectively were supersaturated with methane, comparable to methane emissions found in the entire world’s oceans. 

The scientists attribute the sub-sea thawing to changes in thermal interactions in the ocean, which could be intensified by global warming. These interactions include the release of geothermal heat derived within the sub-surface of the earth, as well as air-sea heat fluxes, which transfer heat from the atmosphere to the ocean. 

Professor Shakhova warns that the release of only a small fraction of the methane held in the ESAS could trigger further abrupt climate warming via positive feedback mechanisms; methane released from thawing permafrost traps heat in the atmosphere, which in turn accelerates thawing. 

“The very shallow water column and weakening permafrost could lead to the doubling of methane in the atmosphere in a matter of decades,” she said in a statement.

Moving forward, Professor Semiletov calls for a consolidated effort to monitor methane emissions across the Arctic Ocean in a bid to mitigate its effects on global warming. “It’s crucially important to study the change in size of the seeps…we need to think about how to combine our efforts to study this, because it affects everyone,” he says.  

This is the first of two parts in an Earth.Org investigation of methane emissions in the polar regions. See December 23rd‘s article, ‘What Satellite Imagery Tells Us About Methane Emissions in Greenland’.  

Featured image by: Brocken Inaglory 

With 90% of trade being carried out at sea, freight shipping is a crucial part of the global economy. But while over 90,000 ships traverse the globe annually, they pose an environmental threat that extends far beyond the ocean.

Container ships emit large amounts of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, specifically sulphur and nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide (Co2). In fact, the shipping industry alone contributes around 2 to 3 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Were it a country, the global shipping industry would have the honour of being the sixth-highest Co2-emitter in the world, behind the United States, China, Russia, India and Japan, illustrating the gravity of the industry’s contribution to the climate crisis. In addition, accidental spills, operational discharges and the disposal of garbage from ships disrupt marine ecology. 

Such a dire threat to the environment could not have escaped the attention of the world for too long, and it didn’t. In 2008, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in collaboration with the government of Norway, launched the “GreenVoyage-2050” project, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping industry by at least 50% by 2050, focusing mainly on sea traffic in six high-priority regions – Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.

Freight shipping companies took note. Sabrina Chao, Managing Director of the Hong Kong-based Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings, a large shipping company, says, “Over the last decade, there have been a lot of conversations in the shipping industry about what more we should be doing. Of course, everybody agrees that we want to leave a much better world for our next generations. We don’t want to be seen as polluters of the world. If you look back, we have already made great progress in reducing [the industry’s] carbon footprint. But there is a lot left to be done. That’s exactly the kind of conversation we are having at Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and at Hong Kong Shipowners Association.”

Maersk Line, a Danish international container shipping company, has committed itself to deploying carbon-neutral vessels by 2030, as well as optimising networks. To bolster this commitment, the company has invested over US$1 billion in research and development since 2014, focusing on developing energy-efficient solutions.

You might also like: The Industry Rallying Against Plastic Pollution

Given that a cargo ship’s lifespan is around 30 years, and the IMO target is in just over 30 years, all major shipping corporations – not just Maersk Line – should endeavour to invest in building the next generation of carbon neutral ships. Unfortunately, however, this may not be a commercially viable solution for all shipowners. The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) instead advocates using alternative fuels that would emit less pollutants. 

However, even with their hands somewhat tied with regards to limited technological options and financial viability, there are still some avenues left for the maritime industry to explore. According to IMO’s Secretary-General, Kitack Lim, ships burn 15% of their fuel while in the ports. He has therefore highlighted the crucial role that ports have in supporting the maritime industry’s thrust towards reducing its carbon footprint. Other solutions include transporting less cargo, travelling at slower speeds to burn less fuel, increasing efficiency by bundling more cargo into bigger ships while cutting down the number of smaller fleets, and using new fuel types. 

While the freight shipping industry may be reluctant to bear the cost of investing in technologies that will mitigate the damaging effects it has on the ocean, it would be wise to be cognisant of the fact that the ocean is its livelihood, and that it has the most to gain from protecting the ocean.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Hand-picked stories once a fortnight. We promise, no spam!

Instagram @earthorg Follow Us